Queen’s “Mustapha” Lyrics Meaning
The title of this Queen track (“Mustapha”) is in fact a name of Muslim origin. And accordingly, perhaps the simplest way to describe the lyrics, at least on the surface, are as a shoutout to Muslims.
Indeed let’s get this out of the way from the jump – it comes off as a bit unconventional for a Western, English-speaking artist to come out with a song where the names “Mustapha” and “Ibrahim” are repeated throughout.
Then on top of that we have various mentions of “Allah”, the name of God as far as Muslims are concerned, as well as the lyrics concluding with the “alaikum salaam”, i.e. the traditional Muslim greeting.
But those three key terms, “Mustapha”, “Ibrahim” and “Allah” noted, on top of the song perhaps appearing simple enough to the naked eye, doesn’t mean it’s actually easy to understand.
Take for starters that it is recited in three different languages – or at least two actual languages, English and Arabic, as well as what some have described as “Persian-emulating gibbering”. The latter was made possible by the fact that Freddie Mercury (birth name Farrokh Bulsara) is of Parsi, i.e. Persian, i.e. Iranian descent.
So it is discernable that during some junctures of the composition, he is imitating said language. But it also seems, as implied earlier, that during those junctures he isn’t actually saying anything. So it’s almost like he was scatting in Persian.
A Treasured Religion being Mocked?
Now most people reading this probably don’t need to be told that Muslims can be very sensitive concerning their religion. This is also something Mercury was more than likely aware of, considering that again he comes from an Islamic background.
Then there’s the recognition of the fact that the intro of the song sounds like a Muslim prayer. And at some points one can even say that the song comes off as being, all things considered, somewhat mocking. So yes, some people did view this as an anti-Islam track on behalf of Queen.
But at the same time, it’s also pretty clear that the Mercury and co. are having fun with the tune.
“Mustapha” is definitely more lighthearted than the usual Queen fare, almost like a freestyle both lyrically and instrumentally. But again, they’re playing with some very-sensitive subject matter.
Well, maybe songs of this nature being released by a major band was more-tolerable back in the 1970s than it has become since, in the social-media age for instance. Moreover, Queen is from the UK, traditionally one of the more-liberal nations in the world, and they had the full right to drop songs like this if they so desired.
And the way they utilized “Mustapha” in some live performances suggests that they perhaps intended it to be one of those songs which are critical of religion – a common theme in pop music. However, in this case it targets Islam as opposed to say Catholicism.
That being noted, apparently no one really made a big stink out “Mustapha” when the song was first released. Yet at the same time, Queen never made it a regular part of their shows.
So perhaps we can conclude something like if they had used the same sound to put together a track that didn’t have potentially-offensive or off-putting religious references, maybe this selfsame “Mustapha”, with completely-different, discernible lyrics could have been a hit. But instead it serves as one of quite a few examples of singles Queen dropped in the 1970s that didn’t chart in any country.
Release Date of “Mustapha”
It was released as single number 3 from Queen’s “Jazz” album. It officially came out in April of 1979 by EMI, the same label that supported other classic British groups such as The Beatles and The Police.
Like Michael Jordan once famously put forth, all because a person has won a lot doesn’t mean they haven’t lost a lot also. And as noted earlier yes, this single from Queen’s album “Jazz” did in fact bomb. However, the project overall was a success, reaching number 6 on the Billboard 200 and number 2 on the UK Albums Chart.
And another single from that undertaking was “Don’t Stop Me Now” (1979), a certified Queen classic that was featured on the movie “Shaun of the Dead” (2004).
Who wrote “Mustapha”?
“Mustapha” was written exclusively by the late Freddie Mercury (1946-1991). And the entirety of Queen produced it in conjunction with accomplished English musician Roy Thomas Baker.
The song’s lyrics are made up of at least three different recognized languages. These languages are:
There is also a fourth language. However, the said language makes no sense. By virtue of that, it is safe to conclude that the fourth language you hear in “Mustapha” isn’t a real language. Mercury apparently just made it up.
Queen is considered to be one of the most-classic bands in pop music history. They are responsible for two of most heavily-utilized rock songs in history, “We Are the Champions” and “We Will Rock You“, both of which came out in 1977.
And they ventured into the 1980s dropping a comparable hit which perhaps every English-speaking sports’ fan is aware of, “Another One Bites the Dust” (1980).
Indeed by all indications Queen would’ve kept dropping hits into perpetuity, but their eccentric frontman, Freddie Mercury, passed away from AIDS in 1991.
However, the band is still active heading into the 2020s, albeit with only guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor remaining, though they regularly team-up with American singer Adam Lambert on vocals.